Thursday, 8 October 2009

An open letter to Councillor Barkhouse


September 1st. 2009

Councillor Jackie Barkhouse
P.O. Box 1749
Halifax, N.S.
B3J  3A5

Dear Councillor Barkhouse

This open letter to you is about damage being done to The Shearwater Flyer Trail by motorized vehicles.  This trail is owned by the Department of Natural Resources, which permits motorized vehicles on many of its properties.  The corridor is heavily used by walkers and cyclists, and the inevitable conflicts are becoming frequent.  We need to find a solution.

Here is a brief history:

•    1997
  • The abandoned rail line from Bissett Road to Shearwater was designated as a potential active transportation corridor. The last six kilometres were still owned by CN and the tracks were still in place.

•    2000
  • A landscape architect was hired by the Halifax Regional Development Agency to draft a concept plan for this corridor.

•    2003
  • The Department of Natural Resources purchased this corridor for an active transportation trail connecting with the Salt Marsh Trail.
  • CHPTA negotiated with Halifax Regional Municipality to build a parking lot at Caldwell Road, near Hines Road, on HRM property.

•    2004
  • CHPTA hired an engineer to inspect all four bridges in this corridor.
  • Public consultation sessions were held in Eastern Passage and Cole Harbour.
  • We met with the Eastern Passage – Cow Bay Community  ATV Club and  we agreed to a number of conditions for them to continue to ride their machines on the trail:
  1. carry 3rd. party insurance
  2. be self policing,
  3. obtain adjacent landowner permission
  4. follow ATVANS trail etiquette policy regarding speed limits, night time hours, and protecting sensitive watercourses and bogs.
  5. commitment to help build  and maintain the trail.
  • Construction began including re-building the four bridges

•    2009
  • We are still improving and maintaining the trail, adding amenities and generally making it more appealing and attractive

From 2004 to late 2008 our relationship with the community ATV Club was positive.  They were enthusiastically involved in several major clean ups.  Self policing  worked well.  Now it is our understanding that this ATV Club is no longer active.  This summer, there has been a decided upswing in damage to the trail, aggressive behaviour and riding in environmentally sensitive areas.  We are concerned for the safety of users and the future of the natural beauty of the trail

Volunteers have all worked hard to turn a forgotten piece of land into a community asset for everyone to use and enjoy. To have a few thoughtless people ruin things for the majority of responsible trail users seems grossly unfair.  We seek your leadership to reach a fair and workable solution.

This discussion must include ATV use in urban areas and enforcement, and consequently needs to involve HRM, community and Provincial interests.

Cole Harbour Parks & Trails Association